Empa Study Finds Graphene-Containing Plastics Harmless After Incineration

After four days under graphene plastic residues, lung cells show no signs of acute damage. Image: Empa

(IN BRIEF) Researchers at Empa have conducted a study on the health risks of burning graphene-containing plastics. The study found that graphene nanoplatelet residues left after the burning of composite materials containing graphene are harmless in case of acute exposure. The researchers used a 3D lung model with cell cultures to test the toxicity of the residues and found no evidence of acute damage to lung cells after contact with graphene nanoplatelet residues. The findings complement an earlier study that showed the negligible health risks of graphene dust from polymer composites. Long-term studies will investigate the effects of prolonged exposure to graphene nanoparticles.

(PRESS RELEASE) DÜBENDORF, 21-Feb-2023 — /EuropaWire/ —  Empa, the Swiss research institute for applied materials sciences and technology, announces that its researchers have unveiled the results of their study into the health risks associated with the burning of graphene-containing plastics. As graphene is increasingly being added to plastics to enhance their properties, including their conductivity and stability, it is important to understand the safety implications of these new composite materials. The researchers examined the residues of graphene nanoplatelets left after burning these materials, and found that they can be considered harmless in case of acute exposure.

Toxicity tests were conducted using a 3D lung model developed at Empa with cell cultures, as the human respiratory tract is the most likely point of contact with graphene particles. The researchers examined and quantified the combustion residues of the graphene composites to determine the amount of graphene particles to which humans are typically exposed. The 3D lung model was then subjected to realistic conditions to predict the acute toxicity of graphene nanoplatelets after combustion.

The results of the study showed that there were no adverse reactions, such as inflammation or oxidative stress, or evidence of acute damage to lung cells after contact with graphene nanoplatelet residues. This finding complements an earlier study by Empa, which demonstrated that the health risks of graphene dust from polymer composites are negligible.

The researchers note that while the acute exposure to graphene nanoplatelet residues appears to be harmless, the effects of prolonged exposure to these nanoparticles will be investigated in long-term studies. These studies will provide further insight into the potential health risks of graphene-containing plastics and composite materials.

This study is a crucial step in understanding the health implications of new materials and will be of interest to manufacturers, regulators, and the wider scientific community. Empa continues to lead the way in exploring the safety and efficacy of new materials, and this study is a testament to their commitment to scientific excellence.

Further information
Dr. Peter Wick
Particles-Biology Interactions
Phone: +41 58 765 76 84

Prof. Dr. Jing Wang
Advanced Analytical Technologies
Phone: +41 58 765 61 15

Editor / Media contact
Dr. Andrea Six
Phone: +41 58 765 61 33



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